Photovoltaics: Rent a solar system – an alternative to buying?

Generate your own electricity, do something for the environment and save money at the same time – the advantages of a photovoltaic system are tempting. The purchase of an investment is associated with a high initial investment and a certain planning and administrative effort. So is the rent or lease worth it?

The most important things in brief:
A rented photovoltaic system usually does not differ in use from a purchased one. Instead of the purchase price, a monthly rent is due over the rental period of about 20 years.
Renting a photovoltaic system is associated with higher costs over the contract period than buying a system and is often not very attractive purely financially – but comfortable to implement.
You are bound to a PV rental contract for a very long time. Check offers regarding the promised services carefully. Consider possible changes to your claims over the contract period.
Table of contents
What is the difference between renting and buying a PV system?
Does the provider assume all risks and obligations?
Is a rental facility worth it for me?
Can I also operate a battery storage and a wallbox with a rental system?
What alternatives do I have to rent if I lack the money to buy a PV system?
Generate your own electricity, do something for the environment and save money at the same time – the advantages of a photovoltaic system are tempting. However, the purchase of an investment is also associated with a high initial investment and a certain planning and administrative effort. In order to overcome these hurdles for consumers, various providers offer PV systems for rent or lease. The Verbraucherzentrale NRW explains whether and for whom this is worthwhile and what you should pay attention to in such offers.

What is the difference between renting and buying a PV system?

Anyone who has made the plan to generate their own electricity with a PV system is faced with the question: Do I buy or rent the system?
The terms renting and lease are both used in connection with PV systems. In practice, the term that a provider uses gives little information about how the offer is designed. The decisive factor is which services, rights and obligations are contractually agreed. In this text, we mainly use the term “rent” and thus also include offers in which the term “rental” is used.
Most decide to buy a plant. As a rule, a specialist company is then commissioned with the planning and installation. After proper commissioning by the installation company, you as the owner and operator are fully responsible for the system. Maintenance, insurance matters and reporting obligations are your responsibility in this case. For this, you have full control when selecting the installed components. This allows you to choose technology that can continue to offer advantages in the future – for example, through the subsequent integration of a wallbox, a heat pump or a battery storage. We have summarized information on the planning of a PV system for you here.
If you decide to buy, you have to deal with some formalities and have a larger sum of money available. These two hurdles want to take away providers who offer PV systems for rent. In addition to regional energy suppliers, such as municipal utilities, supra-regional companies also offer such rental models. Even if the offers differ in contractual details, the concept is similar: Instead of a large initial investment, a monthly amount is paid. In addition to the installation and planning of the system, you will usually also receive additional services such as maintenance and insurance.
Typical for leases are the long terms of usually 15 to 25 years. Part of many rental contracts is the possibility to take over the system free of charge after the end of the contract period. The early purchase of the system and thus an exit from the tenancy is also often offered – but in this case the costs are significantly higher than when buying a system directly. Please note that you usually also contractually undertake to ensure that the rental contract is continued even if the house is sold or inherited.
In the use of the PV system, the rental variant usually does not differ from the purchase option. The electricity produced can be partly used in the household and the surplus can be fed into the public electricity grid. The feed-in fee is usually received by the tenant of the facility – unless otherwise contractually agreed.
Does the provider assume all risks and obligations?

A central argument for renting a PV system is the reduction of personal risk and operating costs. Depending on the provider, the services that are taken over may differ – but it will not work without any effort for you.
As an operator in the facility, you must report them in the market master data register of the Federal Network Agency. Most providers take over this step, as well as the registration with the responsible network operator. For this, however, it is necessary that you authorize him to do so. One point you can’t avoid is the issue of taxes. When filing a tax return, providers cannot relieve you of the additional effort caused by the PV system. As with the purchase of an investment, it is advisable to deal with tax treatment in advance. For small plants up to the current 10 kilowatts, hobby can be applied for at the tax office – this simplifies the topic of taxes enormously.
Depending on the contract, you may also have to bear costs for certain maintenance and repair work, at least in part, yourself. Even insurance of the system is not always part of a rental contract.
In order not to be surprised badly later, it is absolutely necessary to read in the contract exactly which services the provider provides. It may well be that in some respects there may still be additional effort or additional costs for you personally. The detailed examination of the contract is particularly worthwhile in view of the very long term. If you are unsure, you can also seek advice from an independent body – such as the energy advice of the consumer center.
Is a rental facility worth it for me?

Whether a PV system for rent is worthwhile for you depends on various factors. Central, as with a purchased system, is what personal goals you pursue with it. If you want to actively contribute to climate protection and become more independent of your electricity supplier, a PV system is in any case a recommended purchase.
It gets more complicated when it comes to the question of whether and how much the conclusion of a PV rental contract is also financially worthwhile. Prices for PV systems have risen again after years of falling prices: material bottlenecks, increased energy prices and high demand are the main reasons. In addition to the development of electricity prices, the system costs are decisive for when and whether a PV project brings a financial advantage.
The increased prices have led to private PV systems not counting until later than a few years ago. For rental offers, which are usually more expensive than purchase facilities due to financing and service costs over the rental period, this quickly leads to the promised cost savings only occurring towards the end or even after the end of the rental contract. You should be aware of this and carefully check the savings bills of the providers.
It is not uncommon for providers to carry out an example calculation as part of an offer, the result of which suggests a high level of profitability. But beware: Here, fine calculators are often carried out and it is worth taking a close look at the assumptions made. In the small print, you will often find the indication that such invoices are not binding. Whether you really save as much as expected in the end is questionable and is not guaranteed by the provider. Therefore, below are some parameters that you should check in a profitability calculation.
The monthly rent/lease rate
The estimated self-consumption rate
The estimated increase in electricity prices
The observation period
Especially if you are interested in a PV rental offer because you want to keep the effort as low as possible, the careful examination of such calculations and the terms of the contract may seem particularly annoying. However, it can quickly happen that instead of saving costs, you first pay more for a long time. A too late finding may then annoy you over the entire, very long contract period. You should therefore always take this time to check. We recommend that you compare different offers and get independent advice if in doubt.
Can I also operate a battery storage and a wallbox with a rental system?

In addition to a large part of the newly installed photovoltaic systems, a battery storage system is also purchased. In this way, more self-generated solar power can be used in your own household. Learn more about battery storage.
In addition, the spread of electric cars is increasing, whose charging at home with their own PV electricity is the most cost-effective option. Accordingly, it makes sense for e-mobilists to also install a wallbox for the PV system. Thus, the question often arises as to whether the storage and wallbox can also be combined well with the system in the rental model.
Buying a storage device independently and operating it together with the rented PV system is theoretically possible if it is not directly coupled to the system – this can be realized with an AC-coupled storage system. However, if the memory is to be controlled intelligently, it makes sense that the individual components can communicate with each other. This can make implementation more complicated in practice. This also applies to the integration of all other components for which it is advantageous if you are compatible with the installed PV system – including a wallbox for charging electric cars.
Due to the increased demand, many providers now also offer storage and wall boxes for rent in addition to the PV systems – for a corresponding surcharge on the monthly payment. This ensures that the individual components are compatible with each other. Nevertheless, check whether the additional costs for storage or wallbox are reasonable.
If the rental offer includes battery storage, you should also pay attention to a few things:
Battery storage systems have a limited service life, which is significantly shorter than that of a PV system. Therefore, you should pay particular attention in the rental contract to what happens when the storage has reached the end of its service life – this is probably after 10 to 15 years.
You should clarify these questions in advance: Does the provider replace the memory if it no longer performs at full speed? Does this also apply if the memory has already been replaced? As a tenant, do you have to prove that the storage no longer provides the agreed service? Do you have the opportunity to do so?
If it is ensured that the storage provides the promised capacity over the entire rental period and thus that it is also replaced, this can improve the attractiveness of a rental offer: The additional costs for the storage are more worthwhile here than is the case with a purchased storage.
However, for most private households, battery storage – due to the currently still high costs and the limited service life – a battery storage system usually does not increase the profitability of a PV system, but worsens it. Although a storage system increases the self-consumption rate, it often does not constantly over the entire service life of the PV system and not to the extent that the savings gained outweigh the additional costs.
What alternatives do I have to rent if I lack the money to buy a PV system?

The financing of the system is part of the rental offer in the event of a free takeover at the end of the rental contract. Whether this path is more worthwhile than financing through a loan, you should carefully examine in your case. For example, there are also subsidized loans from KfW with favorable interest rates for photovoltaic systems.
If you choose financing through a loan, you must also do without the services of the provider. So you are responsible for the operation of the system yourself and if there are operational failures that are not covered by the warranty or guarantee, you cannot put the troubleshooting in the hands of the provider.
In your decision-making, you should also bear in mind that when buying a system, you have full control over the installed technology right from the start and remain flexible over the entire operating life. This can simplify things, for example if something is to be changed in the technology or if a house sale is due. In addition, there have been negative examples in the past: Customers of providers who had to file for insolvency during an ongoing lease were and continue to be faced with problems with the continued operation of the systems.

Whether you decide to buy, rent or finance an investment, you should consider calmly.
So there are many aspects that play a role in decision-making. Take your time and check offers carefully. Don’t be pushed to make quick decisions, as is sometimes tried in sales talks. Please note that you can usually revoke a contract within two weeks. Take advantage of this opportunity if you are unsure about your decision.

Source: https://www.verbraucherzentrale.de/wissen/energie/erneuerbare-energien/photovoltaik-solaranlage-mieten-eine-alternative-zum-kauf-71086